Cargo drone ready to rescue dogs trapped by La Palma volcano

A Spanish drone company will attempt to rescue four dogs who are trapped by lava on the Spanish island of La Palma, but they are waiting for authorization from the government to help the animals.

The dogs need to be rescued as soon as possible as they appear very skinny on drone footage shared by the Island Council of La Palma a week ago. According to local media, one dog has died, and three are still alive. 

Two local drone companies have been helping to feed the dogs since they were discovered in Todoque, one of the first places devastated by the lava from the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

Despite their efforts, one dog has already died, according to the Spanish newspaper El Pais. Helicopters cannot be used to rescue the dogs because the air around the dogs is too hot and filled with volcanic ash.

Cargo drone
Jaime Pereira, Borja Blanco, and Daniel Romero from the Spanish drone company Aerocamaras will use a cargo drone to try to rescue the dogs, once they get official permission. 

They will first transport food to the dogs using the cargo drone so the animals can get used to the drone. Once they feel comfortable, the team will try to carry the animals out of the area of Todoque, the company said in a statement.

They will use nets with food in the center. Once the dogs are inside the nets, they will be pulled upward and flown to safety. 

“As it is a unique operation in Spain and because it involves the risk of air transport of live animals, a special permit from the competent authorities is necessary,” the company said.

‘Either this or let them die’
Aerocamaras has already used large drones to carry loads of up to 24 kilos out to ships, and now its CEO, Jaime Pereira, wants to attempt the dog rescue. 

“This is unprecedented. It’s never been attempted before anywhere in the world. But it’s either this or let them die,” Pereira told El Pais.

The dogs would need to be moved about 500 meters through the air to the nearest safe spot. Pereira told El Pais that his engineering team had created a net that can be brought down with wet dog food in the center.

Once the dog stands at the center of the net, the drone would lift the net and carry the animal to safety. Only one dog can be taken at a time, and a release system has been developed as a backup. 

“If any problem should arise, we’ve developed a quick-release system that would leave the animal back on the ground,” Pereira said.

No end in sight
The Cumbre Vieja volcano began erupting on September 19 on La Palma, one of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic. The volcanic eruption has affected almost 750 hectares of land, destroyed nearly 2,000 buildings, and forced about 7000 people to evacuate. 

And the volcano is still spewing lava. “There are no signs that an end of the eruption is imminent even though this is the greatest desire of everyone,” the president of the Canary Islands, Angel Víctor Torres, said on Sunday, citing the view of scientists.

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